Since it's July, we have just six months to go until we pick our game of the year for 2018, as well as the many runners-up that deserve recognition too. Where did the time go? Below, you'll find only two games that have broken the 90+ mark, but plenty of titles that hover just below that.

While the vast majority of these games came out in 2018, there are a couple that came out at the dead end of 2017 and we decided to score this year. 

Lumines Remastered

Our review (85%) | Buy it: Steam

"This puzzle classic, which blends block-dropping action with beat-dropping rhythm, is still enthralling nearly 15 years after its original release on the PlayStation Portable, and 10 years after it first emerged on PC. Now it reemerges, this time properly built for PC, pin-sharp and remastered and feeling just as fresh to play, even if its tunes maybe don’t sound that way."

Verdict: Lumines can still pull you helplessly into its block-swapping, rhythm-matching heaven.

Yoku's Island Express

Our review (85%) | Buy it: Steam

"Think of pinball, and you think of flashing lights and clattering noise. It’s a fast, precise, demanding form of play. You certainly couldn’t call it sedate. And yet here’s a game that makes it so. A self-styled ‘pinball adventure’, Yoku’s Island Express carries itself with a carefree charm from title screen to credits and beyond, its cheerfully mellow vibe ensuring that any moments of potential frustration just melt away."

Verdict: A blend of mismatched genres that somehow works, Yoku’s Island Express is a beguiling game of modest brilliance.


Our review (78%) | Buy it: Steam, GOG

"Moonlighter is the unlikely intersection between roguelite dungeon crawler and shop simulation that many will recognize as inspired by Recettear, the 2010 indie game from Japan that originally popularized the combination. Will, the protagonist and proprietor of Moonlighter, spends days tending his shop and nights exploring the town’s procedurally generated dungeons. Some town elder named Zenon predictably cautions Will against his heroic dreams, encouraging him to keep his nose down and make a living. I say: You do you, Will! Live your passion and don’t let any old guy stuck in his ways tell you that you have to work in customer service the rest of your life!"

Verdict: Moonlighter is a cute and casual revival of an uncommon mashup but doesn’t stick around to push the boundaries.

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon

Our review (80%) | Buy it: Steam

"If only all stretch goals were as good as this. Conceived as a bonus for those who backed Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on KickStarter, Curse of the Moon looks and plays like a classic 8-bit game that never existed. Inti Creates’ last involvement with the crowdfunding platform didn’t end too well, its good name tarnished by association with Keiji Inafune’s disappointing Mighty Number Nine. This, however, bears all the hallmarks of a developer determined to redeem itself."

Verdict: Made with affection and artistry, this retro appetiser is a very pleasant surprise.

Cultist Simulator

Our review (85%) | Buy it: Steam, GOG

"The goal is to establish a Lovecraftian cult. You'll collect and study unspeakable grimoires, carry out unthinkable rituals, attract a devoted cadre of followers, and find a way to finance your obsessions—all while trying not to lose your mind along the way."

Verdict: A dark, engrossing, and challenging narrative card and crafting game.

Super Mega Baseball 2

Our review (88%) | Buy it: Steam

"Super Mega Baseball was a brilliant arcade sim that was let down by its lack of online play. The follow-up keeps the accessible hitting and pitching mechanics, smooths over some rough edges, and adds everything that was missing, including multiple online modes, a detailed team editor, and custom leagues. Basically, it does everything a sequel should do, and the result is the best on-field baseball sim on PC."

Verdict: The improvements over the original make Super Mega Baseball 2 the best on-field baseball sim on PC.

Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire

Our review (88%) | Buy it: Steam, GOG

"Pillars of Eternity 2 is another fine RPG from Obsidian, brilliantly showcasing the studio's knack for strong world-building, intelligent, expressive writing, and varied quest design. It’s a big, deep, wordy CRPG in the classic mould, but with enough new ideas to feel like more than just a throwback. The sailing is the only thing I didn’t really engage with, feeling somewhat half-baked compared to the rest of the game. But if it’s a fantasy RPG filled with pages of brilliant, descriptive dialogue you’re after, and a huge, open world to explore, the Deadfire Archipelago delivers all that and then some. We’re more spoiled for choice when it comes to RPGs like this than we were in 2015, which makes Deadfire feel a little less special than the first Pillars. But that’s a minor gripe in light of the fact that this is another great game from one of the best studios in the business, offering many hours of quality roleplaying."

Verdict: A massive, bountiful RPG with richly descriptive writing, a well-realised setting, and deep tactical combat.

The Swords of Ditto

Our review (79%)| Buy it: Steam, GOG"Four days to save the world? It doesn’t sound like much, but having a solid deadline at least gives you a chance to prepare for impending doom in this cheery, likeable action RPG. Once every 100 years, the evil witch Mormo descends on the eponymous island village; you, inevitably, are the chosen one, a warrior of legend charged with stopping her. Sharp swordsmanship is key, but not as important as efficient time management. Whether you can stay focused in a world of distractions, however, is another matter entirely."

Verdict: Familiar, lightweight but almost impossible to dislike, this is an effortlessly enjoyable action RPG.


Our review (85%) | Buy it: Steam, GOG

"These are inconsistencies in what is otherwise an accomplished and fundamentally sound strategy game. BattleTech's success at making you feel—and want to live with—the interesting consequences of each mission is its greatest achievement, and will hopefully have an influence on other developers working in this genre. Where it fails, it fails because it doesn't fully implement all of its best ideas. Given the quality of what it accomplishes elsewhere, however, that's a good-faith sort of failure."

Verdict: A deep tactical wargame with strong fundamentals supporting a broadly successful campaign system.


Our review (89%) | Buy it: Steam, GOG

"Frostpunk is a city-builder and a society simulator, but most of all a crisis management game where the crisis doesn't end until the game does. A few hours with Frostpunk and the tornadoes and tsunamis of Cities: Skylines seem like minor inconveniences. The traffic jams and noise pollution you used to fret over are now an utter fucking joke. In Frostpunk, if citizens are unhappy enough they'll banish you from your own city to die despised and alone. They might leave town if you fail them, but first they'll spend days trying to convince others to join them in mass exodus. Frostpunk is a tense, gripping, and often stressful survival strategy game filled with difficult, sometimes unthinkable choices. It's tough to play but even tougher to stop."

Verdict: Frostpunk is a stressful, stylish, and addictive survival management game filled with incredibly difficult choices.

The Pillars of the Earth

Our review (80%) | Buy it: Steam, GOG

"While Pillars deals with religion, politics, and war, and uses the complicated real history of The Anarchy to flesh out its setting, the characters keep the story grounded and relatable. Nothing else on PC tells a story quite like this, and although it will be a hard sell for some, the slow pace is worth persevering with if you value storytelling above all. Sometimes it slows to the point of dullness and interaction is limited at best, but I loved immersing myself in this evocative medieval world."

Verdict: A beautiful medieval adventure that uses real history and interesting characters to tell a compelling story.


Our review (87%) | Download it: Epic's official site

"And maybe because Fortnite is free, or because it's so scalable and runs flawlessly on years-old systems, or because you can team up with friends on a console and a damn telephone, but enough players stuck around to force Fortnite's building system into something fun despite a steep learning curve and clumsy controls. It was a miraculous design hail mary that has worked sensationally. The time and pain I've poured into learning such an obtuse system for an otherwise approachable, cartoonish battle royale game has easily paid off. There's nothing like Fortnite out there."

Verdict: There's a thrilling shooter-builder battle royale monster beneath Fortnite's building system, and it's more fun slogging through endless failure and a lopsided map to find it than you'd expect.

Far Cry 5

Our review (80%) | Buy it: Steam, Uplay

"Welcome to Far Cry 5, where a quiet spot of fishing can and often will result in piles of burnt wreckage and scattered corpses. It's a chaotic and wonderfully ridiculous open world sandbox of destruction and violence where a short drive down a dirt road can quickly become a pitched battle, as enemy vehicles appear and engage you, friendly fighters arrive and open fire at them, and ravenous animals leap from the woods and attack both. When the smoke finally clears, you may realize you've forgotten where you were going in the first place. Then an eagle swoops down and attacks your face."

Verdict: The wonderful chaos of the open world and your choice of how to tackle it is occasionally stifled by bad boss fights and worse boss speeches.


Our review (79%) | Buy it: Steam 

"Octahedron sets you at the bottom of vertical levels you have to climb in time with throbbing electronic beats. Rather than just being a gimmick, the act of creating platforms is looped into pretty much everything you do, tying into both your movement and your attacks. It is clever, extremely intuitive, and most importantly fun to experiment with."

Verdict: Octahedron gets more mileage than you'd think out of the ability to summon platforms beneath your feet.


Our review (84%) | Buy it: Steam

"Northgard looks like a throwback, a game that would have comfortably fit in with Age of Empires and Settlers, but while the inspiration is clear, it would be a disservice to imply that it's mainly trading in nostalgia. This Viking saga builds on the history-themed RTS romps of the '90s, but it's not beholden to them."

Verdict: Northgard is a surprising, elegant RTS that's laden with a very dull story.

Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

Our review (90%) | Buy it: Steam

"Ni No Kuni 2 is gorgeous, charming and constantly evolving. Its combat is layered and exciting, and polished by a medley of systems that let you finely tailor your play style. Its globetrotting coming-of-age story is a bit saccharine, but it's told well, and packs an ending that still occupies my thoughts. But its crowning achievement is tying all that and more into an involved and deeply satisfying kingdom building sim, one that enhances every other part of the game."

Verdict: Without Evermore, Ni No Kuni 2 would have been good. Because of it, it's one of the best JRPGs on PC.

Surviving Mars

Our review (80%) | Buy it: Steam, GOG

"Despite its survival bent, Surviving Mars still follows the same pattern as Haemimont's Tropico, turning resources into finished products and building whole industries out of them, all while trying to keep everyone happy, or at least placated. It's something familiar to hold onto when the curve balls start flying."

Verdict: Surviving Mars is a lot of hard work, but managing a burgeoning colony never stops being compelling.

Final Fantasy 15

Our review (78%) | Buy it: Steam

"The visual improvements here show that the Windows Edition is the definitive version of Final Fantasy 15: it has never looked better, and mod support suggests an exciting future ahead for the game. It's a shame that FF15 doesn't recapture the depth of the series’ past entries, and games like The Witcher 3 and Divinity: Original Sin 2 really highlight the weaknesses in the sidequests here. This road trip, though, is still well worth taking."

Verdict: Offers a fantastic road trip, even if it's not a particularly in-depth RPG.

Kerbal Space Program: Making History

Our review (82%) | Buy it: Steam

"Despite the huge number of free mods, KSP's developers found a way to make their expansion valuable: They built a new set of tools that the community hasn't provided for itself. The KSP community is fantastic, and more ways to create and share space adventures is exactly what it needed. For the price, it's nice to also get the big dump of new, historical parts, but Making History is great for the making, not the history."

Verdict: KSP's sandbox gets bigger by focusing on what makes it a great PC game: flexibility, freedom, and random explosions.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

Our review (84%) | Buy it: Steam

"Kingdom Come is a mess of bugs, and there’s the constant feeling that independent developer Warhorse is biting off more than it can chew. But there’s a charm to its scrappiness, and it does enough interesting stuff that I’m willing to tolerate the creaky framework struggling to prop everything up. It’s one of the most satisfying, rewarding  role-playing experiences I’ve enjoyed on PC for a while, but the inconsistent performance and the game’s tendency to completely break does test my patience from time to time."

Verdict: Bugs and performance issues aside, Kingdom Come is a seriously satisfying role-playing experience set in a rich, reactive world.

Warhammer: Vermintide 2

Our review (80%) | Buy it: Steam

"It's frustrating that a sequel would still struggle to nail such simple multiplayer basics, and the obscured RPG progression doesn't entice me the way it does in similar games. But Vermintide 2 succeeds on the merits of its stellar combat and level design. After nearly 40 hours, that Rotblood warhorn signalling a zerg-like rush of raiders, or the sound of a Gutter Runner assassin chattering in the darkness, still turns my blood to ice."

Verdict: Vermintide 2's combat and level design are so feverishly fun that I'll put up with its bad matchmaking and RPG progression if it means chopping more ratmen in half.

Full Metal Furies

Our review (84%) | Buy it: Steam

"Full Metal Furies' most entertaining idea, though, is the deep set of skill trees and equipment upgrades for each character, which encourage creative experimentation and multi-character combos. At one point, I upgraded my engineer's turret to shoot in every direction at once, locking down a section of the screen with low-damage bullets. While enemies were pinned down, I marched my tank right into the middle of the group and used her special power, a shout that flings victims in every direction. Some poor soul had to scrape chunks of bad guy off the ceiling after that move."

Verdict: An excellent beat-em-up with tons of wit and great combat, Full Metal Furies belongs on any couch co-op playlist.


Our review (80%) | Buy it: Steam, GOG

On balance, I think I slightly prefer Botanicula—its thematic cohesion and more overt musical playfulness resonated with me more. But that takes little away from the many things Chuchel does well. While I rarely found it laugh-out-loud funny, there's a joyfulness to its scenarios that I couldn't help but smile at. And, while it can often feel arbitrarily surreal, it grounds itself well with a central relationship between Chuchel and rodent-ish nemesis Kekel that's heartwarming to watch unfold.

Verdict: Joyful and surprising, even when you're cracking open an anthropomorphised egg.

A Case of Distrust

Our review (78%) | Buy it: Steam

"The mystery is engaging, and resolves in genre appropriate fashion. Malone's interactions, though basic, are enjoyable—a fulfilling loop of gathering information and using it to put the squeeze on suspects. Moreover, A Cast of Distrust feels atmospheric and evocative—its unique look and sense of style creating a compelling period drama that cuts through the few small missteps and frustrations."

Verdict: A well-formed slice of noir mystery, beautifully presented. Some writing issues aside, A Case of Distrust is well worth your time.

Into the Breach

Our review (93%) | Buy it: Steam, GOG

"For those who loved FTL for its thoughtful and clever design, it’s all here, too. But Into the Breach is a much tighter, more focused game. While there are plenty of weapons to experiment with, pilots with differing abilities to unlock, and level gimmicks to get your head around, you’ll have a very good idea of its breadth in your first run. For some, Into the Breach might lack a sense of mystery and expansiveness, but for me, it’s more than enough to fuel a hundred hours or more of the most consistently rewarding tactics I’ve played in many years."

Verdict: Exacting, agonising, challenging, and intensely rewarding, Into the Breach delivers in the tiniest package the most perfectly formed tactics around. 


Our review (80%) | Buy it: Steam

"It's hard to think of many other games that are this uncompromising in its worldview, and I'm utterly entranced with how little faith it has in our ability to get along. We could build a utopia on this island! We could cast aside our weapons, and construct a peaceful commune where everyone is fed, warm, and loved. I love how Facepunch dangles that potential in front of our face, with no real incentive pushing us in any direction. If we are to dehumanize ourselves, and turn this Eden into a battlefield, we will do it on our own terms. In Rust there is a real sense of complicitness when you eventually succumb to violence, more potent than in any other survival game on the market. Despite the lack of rankings to chase, or K/D to nurture, or exclusive vendors to unlock—despite the unassailable fact that none of this will matter as soon as the server is wiped—we are at war, and we always will be."

Verdict: Rust is a malicious experience rife with betrayal, cruelty and greed. That can make it both frustrating and sublime in equal doses.

Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age

Our review (85%) | Buy it: Steam

"12 sits in an awkward place in the Final Fantasy canon, sandwiched between the FF11 MMO game and the restrictive rebound of Final Fantasy 13. Its opening third does it no favours, and the confused plot never engaged enough to pull me into the inter-kingdom squabbling. If you approach it as a vehicle for party experimentation then it's easy to fast-forward to the quality extra-curricular stuff, like the hunting lodge that lets you fight up through a series of increasingly intense monster battles. The gambit system is so good it deserves to be spun off into its own RPG sub-genre. If you like theorycrafting, clever levelling systems and lavish worlds, this could easily be your new favourite Final Fantasy."

Verdict: A decent port of a great Final Fantasy with one of the cleverest combat systems in RPGs.

Civilization 6: Rise and Fall

Our review (80%) | Buy it: Steam

"It’s an expansion that homes in on these single moments or specific periods and gives them greater meaning and impact. Sometimes, though, it can be hard to see the big picture, especially when you’re desperately trying to get enough era points and time’s running out. It shakes things up, so it won’t convert everyone, but the added tension and dynamism is a massive boon for a series where the pace can be a bit predictable."

Verdict: Rise and Fall is a great addition to Civilization 6 that doesn’t quite go far enough to be essential.

Dragon Ball FighterZ

Our review (83%) | Buy it: Steam

"If your impression of all this is one of a game aimed at, and solely at, people who wouldn’t know a super cancel if it smacked them in the face, think again. As you’ll discover once you clear the generous, if insultingly easy, Story mode, and either take on the upper tiers of Arcade mode or head online, this is a game of tremendous complexity. The moves may be easy, but working them into a team of three, finding synergy in assists and supers, is anything but. The CPU AI suddenly turns into a monster with a few dozen tournament wins under its belt, while the online competition is stiff indeed. The game does a wonderful job of easing you in, but a pasting, whether you venture online or not, is as good as inevitable."

Verdict: Accessible yet complex, chaotic yet beautiful, this is the real fighting game deal.


Our review (89%) | Buy it: Steam

"I have spent nearly 50 hours on my current playthrough and my total playtime is over 120 hours. I am actually still playing (although I did indeed rage quite twice because of the vehicular issues). I have more than 2,000 screenshots of the beautiful world and its strange creatures, and now that the review is over I can go back to meandering at my own pace. It is, without doubt, my favourite game of the last five years."

Verdict: A smattering of technical issues keep Subnautica from true legendary status, but only just.


Our review (80%) | Buy it: Steam

"Celeste is an adventure about overcoming adversity, and what better way to simulate adversity than with a punishingly difficult platformer? Don’t let that scare you, though. For those who have finished (or almost finished) the likes of Super Meat Boy, 1001 Spikes, and N++, Celeste probably won’t feel difficult at all. And that’s because, crucially, Celeste is a game that feels designed to accommodate people who can’t complete those games. Rather than being hard for its own sake (sometimes, in the right hands, a good thing), Celeste is hard for a reason that dovetails with its themes and narrative. And much like the demons that haunt the game’s protagonist, the difficulty does relent. You will finish this game. But if you’re like me, you’ll die upwards of 3,000 times doing so."

Verdict: An engaging, vibrant and challenging platformer that adds narrative to a genre often shy of it.

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

Our review (85%) | Buy it: Steam

"Taking it as a whole, PUBG is an achievement in contradictory brutality and breathing room. It's a hyper-competitive sandbox shooter where you can be killed from half a kilometer away without any warning. It also has an autorun button so you can take a generous bite of your sandwich or shout thanks to your most recent Twitch subscribers. PUBG has plenty of issues to address before it fully exits adolescence, but its mixture of nonchalance and military intensity is deep, respectful of your time, and a reliable war story generator."

Verdict: PUBG takes the tradition of big-map survival games like DayZ and compresses it into digestible, 3-to-30-minute sprints that are reliably scary and low-key.


Our review (78%) | Buy it: Steam

"Iconoclasts is a fine game, offering both satisfyingly sharp platforming and shooting, and some really smart puzzles. It’s enormous too, packed with secret areas and other stuff to discover. And although I found the humour a little glib and childish at times, it tells its heartfelt story well. A lot of Metroidvania games go for a bleak, downbeat atmosphere, but Iconoclasts is infectiously vibrant and sunny, even if the story does occasionally venture into dark territory."

Verdict: Slick platforming, well-designed puzzles, and a huge, connected world, with occasional moments of frustration.

Subnautica - Hugh

Update 12 Jun 2018 - the WDC sale has ended, thank you everyone who participated

You saved the underwater world of planet 4546B. Here on Earth, our own oceans need your help. This weekend, we are joining forces with Valve and the ocean charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC). 15% of Unknown Worlds’ profits from the sales of Subnautica will go to WDC.

4546B is a world covered in water. Earth is not so different: 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water. Startlingly, they contain around 90% of the Earth’s biomass. That means that there is far more life under the water than above it: Out of sight, and often out of mind.

Agricultural runoff, drag-net fishing, deforestation, plastic waste, even acidification via increased carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Earth’s oceans are taking damage from multiple sources. Life below the waves is dying, shrinking, and disappearing.

We made a game that takes you to an alien world, a world that needs your help. You saved that world. This weekend, we ask that you think about ways in which you can help to save the Earth.

About WDC

WDC is a global organisation that works to:

  • Create healthy seas, including tackling plastic pollution in our oceans
  • Put an end to hunting and commercial whaling
  • Tackle bycatch, an accidental entanglement in fishing gear, which kills an estimated 300,000 whales and dolphins every year
  • End the cruel practice of keeping whales and dolphins in captivity

You can find out more at and follow WDC on twitter at @WHALES_org. In the United States, WDC is registered under charity number 1014705.

In celebration of World Oceans Day, Subnautica is on sale now through Monday, June 11 at 6pm BST / 10am PST. 

The deep sea survival game's weekend Steam sale lops 20 percent off its regular price—now £15.59/$19.99—with 15 percent of net developer profits going to sea life charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation. 

In her glowing 89-scored review, Pip suggests a "smattering of technical issues keep Subnautica from true legendary status, but only just". At that point, she'd clocked over 120 hours in the drink, and had snapped over 2,000 screenshots of its beautiful world and strange creatures. I like this excerpt:   

You'll likely discover the stunning kelp forests early on, basking in their green splendour for a moment before spotting the accompanying eel/crocodile creatures. They're Stalkers. They might try to take a bite out of you but they prefer to play with the metal of wrecked craft.

As you poke around you start to find (or be fed via radio broadcasts) suggestive snippets which hint at a story beyond your own survival exploits. How you choose to balance pursuit of the written narrative against whatever you fancy doing under the sea is left up to you, though. Several game modes allow you to make that choice more explicit. For instance, Creative mode strips out all the survival and the story, just letting you build and explore. Hardcore gives you only one life and no oxygen warnings so is better for role-play.

Speaking to the charity's collaboration with developer Unknown Worlds Entertainment, the WDC's Abbie Cheesman says: "Subnautica has been incredibly popular with our supporters in the gaming community and the broadcasters and fundraisers who have taken part in our Gamers for Orcas fundraisers, so we are delighted to be working with the team behind Subnautica on a special promotion this World Oceans Day."

Subnautica is the game that gave Andy the experience he wanted from No Man’s Sky, and, besides Pip's review, I understand it's one of the the best underwater games on PC. I'm yet to play it, but I think I'll dive in this weekend. It's Steam page is this way, if you fancy doing so too. 

Subnautica - Valve
Save 20% on Subnautica as part of this week's Weekend Deal*!

*Offer ends Monday at 10AM Pacific Time
EVE Online

What's your favorite non-violent PC game? That's what we've asked the writers of the global PC Gamer team today. As with every edition of our regular PC Gamer Q&A, which is published on Saturdays, we love to read your responses to the same question in the comments thread below too. 

When it comes to our choices, expect a cool mix of trucking, underwater exploration, floating through space, a space station, puzzle games, old-fashioned physical comedy and even a quiz series. You'll also find a couple of responses below from members of the PC Gamer Club.

Samuel Roberts: Jazzpunk

I don't think Jazzpunk is strictly non-violent, since it features a joke deathmatch mode called Wedding Qake where you fire cake at each other, but the main game is pretty tame. It's basically a Naked Gun-style comedy adventure, where you prod different parts of the environment or characters to make jokes happen, and it's extremely enjoyable. 

This from the game's Wikipedia page also confirms it's not completely non-violent, but damn, I'd download any game that includes this: "a version of Duck Hunt in which the player pelts cardboard ducks with slices of bread from a toaster, [features] prominently in the game's storyline." I don't remember that bit, to be honest, but play Jazzpunk. It'll make you laugh. 

Andy Kelly: Euro Truck Simulator 2

Regular readers will know that I'm forever banging on about this game, but it really is one of the best on PC—and notable for its complete lack of violence. I mean, sometimes I'll get frustrated and ram my HGV into a slow-moving motorist, but mostly I just trundle peacefully along the motorway listening to German rock radio stations.

American Truck Simulator is a nice alternative. Although I prefer the European scenery, particularly the Scandinavia expansion, the deserts of the western United States make for some atmospheric driving too. Both games are some of the most relaxing experiences you can have on PC, like a lovely screensaver for your brain, and I can't recommend them enough.

Tom Senior: EVE Online

EVE Online isn't a non-violent game exactly, but if you keep your head down you can coast around in high-sec space admiring nebulae and bathing in the sweeping synth soundtrack. EVE's asteroid fields have given me the most peaceful moments in games. I don't have time to join a corp and get the full EVE experience, but I drop in occasionally and stretch the game across two monitors to make the cosmos feel as huge as possible. Then I just sit back and watch the little mining lasers suck ore out of unsuspecting rocks.

Speaking about non-violent spaces in games, I recently started following The Safe Room on Twitter. It highlights areas designed to give players respite in tense games. The pictures remind me of the sense of relief you get when a game puts the brakes on. Even violent games can deliver moments of reflection.

James Davenport: Proteus

I play Proteus a few times a year now. Something about a pixelated rabbit that makes plinking sounds with each hop gets to me. But it's not just the rabbits—everything emote and dances and boops and beeps when you walk by on whatever procedurally generated landscape you washed up on this time. Everything from flowers to bees to gravestones has something to say, and they sing it in accordance with the tune of each season. You'll rotate through them all in Proteus, while the song and its natural instruments change mood with the little deaths of autumn and the vibrant renewal of spring. Proteus only takes an hour or so to finish, and its lack of a clear goal will bother some, but it's a complete emotional circuit. If you're looking to contemplate life, death, transcendence, and plinky rabbits without ever pulling a trigger or bashing dragur over the head with an axe, it's a must play.  

Jody Macgregor: Bernbrand

Bernband is an entire alien city right out of a Star Wars movie compacted down to an 11 MB download. Bug-eyed aliens bobble around the streets, flying cars vroom past the walkways, and banging music comes out of every third building. It's a game about walking around and finding cool spots—the dudes listening to hip-hop in the car park, the aquarium where you can get inside the glass—and that's enough for me. Your alien feet clip-clop as you walk past glowing buildings, passing from noisy spaces like bars and thoroughfares to quiet alleys and back again, and the contrast makes it feels just like being lost in a real city.

Bernband is free on Gamejolt, and is all the work of Tom van den Boogaart. He's currently working on an expanded, paid version, and has been posting gifs of the work-in-progress on Twitter.

Chris Livingston: You Don't Know Jack

I still play You Don't Know Jack every now and then. It's still a fun, fast, and silly trivia series after all these years (the first YDKJ game was way the hell back in 1995). It's one of the few games I stream to the TV using the Steam Link, and party play lets you use your phone as a controller, perfect since my phone is almost always in my hand anyway.

I just looked it up and apparently there's yet another volume coming out later this year, which makes me happy—though in terms of non-violence I should say some of Cookie's jokes and puns can be almost physically painful.

Tim Clark: Dear Esther and Lumines

I suppose the expected answer is some sort of elegiac stroll-'em-up, of which my favourite would be the none-more-poetic Dear Esther, which is the right sort of pretentious. But really there's a ton of stuff I could choose. Pro Evolution Soccer during its glory days, though my last ditch tackling might disqualify it. And how about puzzle games? A remastered version of Lumines is coming out later this month, and the original is on Steam already. It's super peaceful in a trancey, high energy sort of way. You know what I'm saying. 

Bo Moore: Stardew Valley

I've put more than 200 hours into Stardew Valley now. It's the game I've gone back to the most in the last few years. I don't do so in short little bursts, though. Every time I return it sucks me in for a good long while. At this point it almost feels like I'm speedrunning it as I try to min/max my first few seasons, rapidly upgrade my tools, and get my winery operation up and running as quick as possible. I get burned out quicker each subsequent return, and yet I keep going back. 

The PC Gamer Club: Subnautica, Abzu and The Talos Principle

We asked the members of the PC Gamer Club to suggest an entry this week through our Discord channel, and we got a couple of great responses. User Mildoze picked both Subnautica and Abzu, noting the former has a little bit of violence. "Subnautica is an amazing story game that forces the player to think for themselves and does it without ever turning you into a powerhouse. You're always vulnerable (even 40 hrs in), never given offensive tools, and forced to go ever deeper into more dangerous waters. The best choice in every confrontation is to flee, but you can't always do that when you're panicking in a cavern 1000m below the ocean without any weapons or enough oxygen to make it to safety."

And on Abzu: "It's like playing a living aquarium. So peaceful and beautiful under the sea. It's a game where there is no threat of dying, no enemies or hostility of any kind. It's easy to relax and reach a Zen-like state of mind playing Abzu  I've never fallen asleep playing a game until Abzu. Yet for a couple weeks every night I would turn it on, fighting off the sandman as I made my way to the end of this amazing exploration game." 

Fellow Discord member Ronder opts for The Talos Principle. "For me it would have to be The Talos Principle. Aside from the excellent puzzle setups, the main conflict in the game is generated by the questioning terminals you meet. As they gently prod you and question your sense self-identity as well as your responses to that, the AI unit you pilot vicariously comes to self-awareness through you. This form of intellectual combat is stimulating, especially given the scope of the game, and gifts you subtle questions to ponder long after the closing credits. It's hard to see how potentially erasing your sense of personhood could be non-violent, but the game achieves that masterfully."

But what about you, reader? Let us know your choices in the comments. 

Subnautica - Hugh

Crushing Bugs

Since launch, we have been prototyping potential Subnautica expansions, working on Xbox One launch, and working on tidying up some of the more glaring bugs in the Steam 1.0 release.

Today we released an update that includes a bunch of that tidying up. Here's the list of changes:

  • Main menu button texts update correctly when switching languages
  • In-game menu button text colors fixed
  • F8 panel fully translated
  • Cyclops flooding leak indicators now clearly outside of the hull
  • Controller navigation and selection boxes fixed
  • Builder menu usable with swapped mouse buttons
  • Lifepod fabricator lighting fixed
  • Cyclops hatch door collider fixed
  • Disallow poster placement where wall lockers are disallowed
  • Non-localized text removed from color customization terminal
  • Physics bugs with ion cubes and precursor keys fixed
  • End-game achievements now trigger
  • Lost river creatures now immune to brine
  • Player mask now correctly lit
  • Can not despawn Aurora by building a base next to it anymore
  • Seamoth hatch animation fixed
  • Changing quality settings in game reminds player to restart the game
  • Time capsule UI simplyfied
  • Pathfinder tool recipe adjusted
  • Entering exosuit while sprinting fixed
  • Fixed saved game rocket not being ready for launch
  • Reduced hitching when rebuilding a base
  • Fixed moonpool ladders not working properly when cinematics have been skipped
  • Time capsule fixes for various platforms
  • Added option to turn off subtitles.
  • Updated TimeCapsuleTitleFormat
  • Fixed base interiors looking incorrect when viewed from inside a vehicle or another base
  • Fixed Cyclops interior not looking correct when viewed from a vehicle
  • Fixed low LOD of certain base windows
  • Re-caching of entire world (to help with hitching a little)
  • Options menu screen resolution fix
  • Fixed localization of deconstruction errors
  • Added TimeCapsuleTitleFormat to English.json
  • Translator credits update
  • Translation updates


Historical Factoid

In the early days of Subnautica development, updates did not have names. They had numbers, like Update 8. We eventually switched to names, like Seamoth Update, because they were punchier.

Under the hood the named updates continued to have numbers. Update 84 reverts to the old school: A Subnautica Update with no name.

- Hugh (UWE)

This post was edited to include additional changes pushed in a small update released just after Update 84. Together the two updates constitute Update 84.

I lost the keys to my apartment mailbox the other week. I wasn’t really concerned at first. It’s 2018, how often do I need physical mail? But as the days went on without the key turning up, my worries mounted. 

I’d switched health insurance plans just last month and was waiting for a letter from my new provider. If I couldn’t find the key, I couldn’t get the letter. If I couldn’t get the letter, I’d have to have an awkward conversation with my landlord about making a duplicate. How much would that cost? Would it happen before I missed the deadline to reply to my provider? How expensive, or how frustrating, would that screw-up be? 

Little problems cascade into big ones. Life doesn’t pause for you to rectify them. It’s how people get their cars towed, miss work, and then can’t make the money to pay to get the vehicle back. Or how someone causes a state-wide apocalyptic panic with a mis-click. 

Survival games like Don’t Starve and DayZ fuel and feed on similar cascades of drama. Hunger and thirst meters stand in for worries about rent or your health insurance bill. They push you to brave zombie- and monster-infested wastes for supplies. Then those foes push you towards other necessities, like bullets, health packs, or upgrades.

Subnautica, my new personal favorite survival game, shares some of those fantastical problems. There are sea monsters lurking beneath the waves of Planet 4556B (the ocean world where the game takes place), but they keep to their territory if I keep to mine. I’m free to tend to my undersea garden—to collect my in-game nutrition from an ever-replenishing aquarium and do the daily chore of making sure my habitat, submarines, and ore-drilling mech suit are powered up in case I need them. 

By the time I was halfway to my destination I was starving. My titanium transport was mostly out of juice.

It’s an agrarian dream, a damp Stardew Valley. The low-stress subsistence of Subnautica is the fantasy of life in a less complicated world, free from any needs or wants but my own. The world is alien enough to let me dissociate from reality, but the escapism is rooted in a real-world desire for things to be simple.

I could spend hundreds of hours like this, as some players I know have done, or as others do with Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon. But Subnautica is different. It has a plot with a beginning, middle, and end, unlike many survival games. And for better or worse, I’m the kind of person who has to see a game’s #content all the way through.

So I revved up a submarine the size of a double-decker bus and set off for the deepest point in Subnautica as you are supposed to. But I didn’t make it there. I’d forgotten to pack spare food, water, health packs, and fresh power cells, you see. By the time I was halfway to my destination I was starving and my titanium transport was mostly out of juice.

It was a simple mistake, but as in real life it had cascading consequences. When you "die" in Subnautica you’re sent back to the last safe harbor you stood in, minus whatever raw materials you had in your inventory. But partway to the trench that would push the game’s story forward, I had collected glittering rubies and pulsing radioactive material I’d never seen before. 

I wasn’t about to give up those. So I did my best undersea sprint—a mix of breathless swimming and Spider-Man swinging with my mech’s grappling hook—to get back to base before death claimed my precious rare goods.

In Subnautica, I collect my mushrooms to fuel a bioreactor and expect to have a salted Reginald around for easy eating.

The local monsters didn’t appreciate the panicked racket I made. EMP-burping crab creatures, jellyfish people that could warp me out of my vehicle, and man-faced squids that shook my equipment all waded between me and the safe mundanity I had made under the sea. 

For want of a water bottle, I earned these creatures’ tentacled wrath. Because of their interference, it became even harder to return to my kelp beds and aquarium before keeling over. It was the avalanche of stress over losing my key all over again.

And that relatability is exactly what made my escape so terrifying. Some genetic instinct tells my squishy human body that being chased by sea monsters is upsetting, but barring bad luck and a shark attack I’ll probably never know that fear first-hand. Forgetting to gas up before taking a long and lonely drive through unfamiliar territory, though? That’s a drama past experience lets me wrap my mind around.

None of that is possible without Subnautica’s early, gentle monotony. By definition drama is unexpected, and nothing is more unexpected than a break in the routines that we set for ourselves. In real life, I go up the block to buy bagels on Wednesdays and expect my mailbox key to be where I left it. In Subnautica, I collect my mushrooms to fuel a bioreactor and expect to have a salted Reginald around for easy eating. The idea that this will always be the case is a myth I make for myself. 

Building up and breaking down that kind of fiction in a safe environment like videogames isn’t just fun, it’s a useful form of self-examination. It makes me look at the flaws in my own routine. How quickly could everyday life come crumbling down, just because I do something the same way, every day, because it’s comfortable? What else about the world around me is broken, wrong, or unfair because someone decided it was more comfortable for them this way?

Subnautica has its alien sea monsters, but maybe they’re not so unfathomable as they seem. The real world is certainly full of predators—from payday loans to rent-hiking landlords and con artists phishing for your credit card number over the phone—just waiting to take advantage of any crack in our fragile routines. 

Subnautica lets me swim or sail away from my problems, but reality isn’t so straightforward. My key did turn up eventually (someone found and hung it above my mailbox, which was pretty nice of them). Next time I might not be so lucky, and my underwater adventures have made me think harder about where I keep it.


Image via Steam user

Subnautica's bizarre alien life and dramatic rock formations make it easy to spend a lot of time beneath the waves, but it's also easy to get completely, where-the-hell-is-my-Seamoth kind of lost. Maybe humans just aren't built to navigate as well underwater as we do on land, or maybe Planet 4546B needs to hire a better city planner. 

Whatever causes it, getting turned around under the sea is no fun. There's no such thing as an in-game Subnautica map, and even the really smart fish haven't figured out how to invent GPS satellites. To help out our fellow marooned survivors, we put together our own map and a few of our best strategies for finding your way around in Subnautica.

A note on spoilers: This guide is spoiler-free. We won't give away any locations from later in the game or share directions to the fully stocked, 24-hour supermarket hidden under the sea. That said, exploring Subnautica with no knowledge at all, getting lost, and stumbling across something amazing is a pretty great experience. If you haven't gotten into the game at all, go get your feet wet and come back here when you need help.

Orientation for beginners

The world you explore in Subnautica is a volcanic crater, though you wouldn't know it by sailing a boat across it. On the surface you'll find nothing but open ocean and four landmarks: your lifepod, the crashed hulk of the Aurora, and two mountainous islands (usually obscured by fog until you get close to them). To get your bearings, the lifepod is in the middle, the Aurora is to the east, and the two islands are to the northeast and southwest.

Click the map to expand to full size in a new tab.

You'll find a schematic for a compass pretty early in the game, and it's essential for finding your way around. With a compass and this map, you can plot some basic directions for yourself using the grid markings, which have a line every 500 meters. To get to lifepod 19, for example, you swim about 250 meters due west from your crash site. Lifepod 6 is around 300 meters east and 200 meters north—according to Pythagoras, that's 360 meters due northeast.

As for depth, that's much simpler: hug the ocean floor. Almost all of the good stuff is found on the floor, whether it's in the charming shallows at 8 meters or the inky depths at 900 meters. Whether or not you can go deep enough to find the floor depends on your equipment and your vehicles, but the question of "where is that thing?" is usually a matter of directions, not depth.

Filling in the edges

Since there's no in-game Subnautica map, you're going to need to take some notes yourself. When commenters or forum posters say they want a map in the game, they usually want a way to cross off explored areas or remember important locations. If you want to keep track, make like it's a '90s-era adventure game and break out a notepad.

To actually note locations, you need a coordinate system, and you have two options: console coordinates or homebrewed beacon triangulation. One of them is cool and fun and the other is dumb and boring. You can use whichever one you want, I'm not your dad.

Here's the first way: Everything in Subnautica has in-game coordinates. You can find coordinates by pressing F1 to bring down a console menu. Under "Camera world pos" you'll see three numbers shown as (x, y, z), where X is east-west, Y is depth, and Z is north-south. If you find something cool or you're done exploring a certain sunken wreck, press F1 and note those coordinates so you can refer to them later. If you really get stuck and you consult the wiki, you can use those coordinates to find whatever you've been looking for.

Personally, I find pulling down a console menu a serious buzz-kill. That's why I prefer the second method, which fits better inside the tools of the game: Triangulation. Triangulation can be used for making maps in all sorts of ways, but the method we're going to use here is position resection: using three fixed, known points to determine your unknown location.

To get a known fixed point to measure from, you need beacons, floating radio transmitters that stay stable in water. After you scan a few fragments at wrecks near the shallows, you'll unlock a blueprint for a beacon, and a little copper ore and titanium will let your fabricator whip one up. 

For the best coverage, swim (or drive) out to the edges of the map and drop all three beacons. This may take you over some deep and dangerous waters, but as long as you stay on the surface, you probably won't die.

The key with beacon triangulation is to spread 'em out as much as you can. Once you've got all three placed and labeled, you can bring up your tablet and toggle a HUD display to show icons and distances. When you want to make a note of a spot, get a distance reading from each of the beacons, e.g., 900 meters away from #1, 640 meters away from #2, 1,000 meters away from #3. If you find a wreck with a broken door panel but you left your repair tool back at base, those distances will work like coordinates to help you find your way back.


There are a lot of distinct biomes in Subnautica, and some crafting recipes will force you to track down a specific biome with some rare creature or mineral. This list isn't exhaustive—there are two major mushroom forests, for example, in different and unconnected parts of the world. I'm also not mentioning some of the rare, hard-to-reach biomes that show up late in the game.

Shallows and kelp forest

This is the easy one. The shallows and a bordering kelp forest are the first things you'll see when you swim away from your lifepod for the first time. There's a ton of food and basic crafting materials to be found here.

Grassy plateauCoordinates: 362, -90, 21

You'll see the wide open spaces and bright red grass first. These plateaus have more interesting minerals and some of the more aggressive small animals.

Crash zoneCoordinates: 453, -13, -180

The area immediately around the Aurora has been churned up, and most of the plant life has been destroyed. You'll find a lot of scrap metal, minerals, and a few supply crates from the cargo hold. To get there, well, swim toward the massive burning spaceship.

Mushroom forestCoordinates: 529, -175, 371

There are two separate mushroom forests, and they're very distinctive: towering trees of flat, disc-shaped fungus branches. It's one of best looking biomes to explore, and it's one of the first places you find large mineral deposits. As soon as you have drilling gear, head to the mushroom forest to load up on crafting materials.

Jellyshroom caveCoordinates: -355, -110, -226

Strangely beautiful and super creepy, the Jellyshroom cave is like if you lit your bedroom with lamps made of nuclear waste: sure the lighting is good, but you don't actually want to spend time in there. You'll find an entrance quite close to your lifepod, but you'll need an upgraded vehicle to dive all the down to 300 meters.

MountainsCoordinates: 1090, -265, 1215

The northeastern island is the uppermost tip of a sprawling mountain range, most of which is underwater. You'll find some really rare minerals on the sheer cliff faces, and large predators are everywhere.

Mountain islandCoordinates: 309, 0, 1080

The northeastern island is larger than the southwestern one, and it's covered with more tunnels and places to get lost. You'll find a lot of gold and lithium in the caves, and the large alien tower on the northern tip is going to be an important part of your adventures.

Underwater islandsCoordinates: -85, -66, 635

Large alien membranes act like floatation devices, holding a large archipelago suspended under the surface. These are a good place to find diamonds without going too deep, as long as you can avoid being eaten.

Floating islandCoordinates: -620, 0, -967

The underwater islands' more famous, more successful cousin, the floating island managed to gather enough weird alien membranes to breach the surface and stay up there. On the surface is a dense rainforest full of edible plants and crops you'll want to take back to your home garden for food. You'll also find quite a lot of tech and architectural blueprints in the old ruins scattered around.

DunesCoordinates: -1101, -213, 342

One of the best places to find large mineral deposits is also the most dangerous. The dunes are dark and murky with silt and sand even on a sunny afternoon, so watch your back. When you start drilling, it really ticks off the neighbors.

Blood kelpCoordinates: -977, -315, -532

When it's time to suck it up and head into that deep water, that bad water, you're probably looking for blood kelp. Skeletal kelp vines drop valuable organic matter, and you'll find other hard-to-find crafting materials like gel sacks, uraninite, and deep shrooms.

Grand ReefCoordinates: -435, -319, -991

It's deep and there are some pretty serious predators, but the Grand Reef is gorgeous to look at. If you can dodge the floating anchor pods, you'll find some of the most diverse mineral deposits in the game. There are also two very large sunken wrecks to explore for some good tech blueprints.


Subnautica achieves a rare feat for survival games by weaving together the usual exploration and base building with an absorbing sci-fi story. Being the lone survivor of the Aurora, a spaceship that crashlands on a waterworld, there's a surprising amount of humanity in the abandoned audio files and diaries you find while scouring the ocean floor. 

About six hours into your adventure, however, Subnautica's story rises to an exciting—and very unexpected—crescendo. It's a singular moment that, for weeks, haunted those of us who have seen it. Last week, Pip, Andy, and I began talking about that moment, and what we discovered was that Subnautica's rare willingness to let us control our character during this pivotal moment each let us experience the story in dramatically different contexts. We each had our own perspective on what happened, and it wasn't until we got together to discuss them that we realized what actually happened.

To demonstrate how brilliant this single moment is, we're walking you through our version of events.

Beware, what follows is a complete spoiler for the first major plot twist in Subnautica. It's an incredible moment, so take the time to experience it for yourself first.

Did I do that? 

Steven: My first few days surviving in the deep oceans of Subnautica were suitably short-sighted. As the sun rose each day, I'd dive down into the shallows surrounding my life pod to scoop up any ores and minerals I could find while occasionally catching and eating fish to keep my stomach full.

It must've been a few days before I even realized that my floating escape pod had a radio transmitter that could receive broadcasts, and it was to my horror and shame that I discovered several old SOS messages from other crew members of the crashed Aurora. With the little gear I had, I set out to their last known locations only to find their empty, destroyed pods. Their bodies were now food for some monstrous fish, I presumed.

It was around this time that I also began receiving broadcasts from someone who was definitely still alive. The Sunbeam, a cargo ship passing through the system, picked up the Aurora's distress beacon and was coming to investigate. With no way to send them a message, it was nerve-wracking spending each day waiting for their next broadcast. They had no confirmation that anyone had survived, so how would they know to look for me?

Not wanting to hold out hope, I continued my daily routine of foraging for materials and slowly building tools and vehicles to help me better survive. As each day ticked by, I'd return to my pod to find a new message from the Sunbeam ensuring any survivors that they were coming. I was hopeful. 

One day I returned to find a message from the Sunbeam's captain, Avery Quinn, telling me they had finally plotted a course to the planet's watery surface. They shared a waypoint almost a kilometer away—much farther than I had dared venture before—and instructed me that I had 45 real-time minutes to get there for rescue.

Andy: I had the feeling something bad was going to happen, but I wasn’t sure what. When the captain of the Sunbeam tells you they’re on their way to rescue you, he talks about hoping the weather holds up. So I thought maybe the ship wouldn’t be able to land because of, I dunno, a space storm? I was only about six hours into the game at this point, which felt way too early for a successful rescue. Even so, I was totally unprepared for what happened.

Steven: I felt the same way. Was I really going to be rescued that quickly? Was Subnautica's story mode so brief? Uncertain and with a million questions in my mind, like what was behind the alien-looking constructs I had found nestled in an underwater cave, I decided to continue foraging and building. When the Sunbeam was just 10 minutes away, I loaded up in my Seamoth submarine with food and water and began the long voyage to the rally point.

Five minutes later, I saw something I had never expected to see: An island. Pulling up to shore in my Seamoth, I disembarked on a beach and wandered a few meters closer to find something equally unexpected. Jutting out of the island, an alien tower reached almost a kilometer into the sky. At its base, I found an entrance guarded by a forcefield. Two pieces of a broken tablet fit together in a nearby console and granted me access. With four minutes to kill, I decided to head inside.

I picked my way through the base, stopping to scan different pieces of technology and then read their descriptions in my PDA. By the time I reached the alien computer near the back of the main foyer, I had only 30 seconds before the Sunbeam would land. 

I had a million more questions. Did the Sunbeam captain intentionally choose this island as our rendezvous? If so, did they know about the alien base located there? Were they really just a cargo ship that happened to pick up the Aurora's distress beacon, or was there a more sinister motive at work here? With each second, I grew increasingly skeptical that my supposed saviors had other plans for me. I wished I had brought a weapon.

With 30 seconds remaining, I hastily pushed a button on the central alien console. My PDA instructed me that it had begun a data download, but I wouldn't have time to read it. Almost immediately after pushing the button, I heard an enormous groan come from the tower itself. Not having any time to think, I ran outside to meet the Sunbeam.

Back outside, I looked up to see a black dot in the sky growing steadily as it approached the surface. To my left, the alien tower continued to groan. Had pushing that button started some kind of process?

"Aurora survivor, we have your PDA signature," Quinn said. "I don't know how you walked away from that wreck let alone survived since then. We'll be happy to bring you on board." Seconds passed, and I watched the alien tower with rapidly growing horror. It was rotating and angling itself. It no longer looked like a tower, but a cannon. Oh shit.

As the Sunbeam finally came close enough that I could make out the shape of its hull, the alien tower began glowing green. "What is that?" Quinn said to a crewmate. "—from the planet?" A lance of green energy erupted from the tower and the Sunbeam exploded. Pieces of its nearly vaporized hull sprinkled across the ocean before me.

I stood there, on the beach, in utter shock. Replaying the events in my mind, the only thing I could focus on was how, like an idiot, I had gone pushing buttons inside the base without knowing what they did. My stomach was in knots. Without knowing what I was doing, I had just accidentally murdered everyone on the Sunbeam.

Survivor's guilt 

Andy: I stood on the beach with five minutes on the timer and minimized the game. Then, shortly before the five minutes were up, I heard a metal grinding sound. I flipped back to the game and saw what I previously thought was an alien skyscraper suddenly transform into a giant cannon. And it was then that I knew the Sunbeam was done for. I looked on in horror as it was blown out of the sky, although I must admit I was thinking “If that crashes I might be able to scavenge some cool stuff out of the wreckage.” But, alas, it was totally vaporized.

Steven: Hearing Andy's story totally confused me. How had the alien cannon fired if he hadn't first turned it on? Something wasn't adding up, but it wasn't until I spoke with Pip that we realized what actually had happened.

Pip: Unlike Steven and Andy, I was really far into my current playthrough when I encountered the Sunbeam broadcasts. I’d actually ignored the radio signals (and even the Aurora itself) for ages as I was perfectly content to explore and build on my own. By the time the Sunbeam storyline began, I’d already found the Mountain Island it leads you to by myself. I’d thoroughly explored its caves and waters, and I’d collected the resources needed to access the alien facility which extends from the beach. 

Because I wasn't pressed for time like Steven, I was able to read each of the data logs I recovered from scanning the alien technology. One of the data points in the facility offers up the following:

“This device houses energy equivalent to a 100MT nuclear detonation, which can be channeled through the facility and directed at vessels overhead, or bent around the planet's gravitational pull to strike targets in orbit. Power is routed via the attached terminal, allowing for the device to be deactivated if necessary. It is currently operating without parameters, suggesting it will target any ship within range.”

Knowing that and then hearing the Sunbeam communication that told me that craft was going to come down to the surface to fetch me was such a strong moment of powerlessness. I spent the full countdown bumbling around the island and the alien facility trying to figure out if I had any ability to alter the Sunbeam’s fate. It is maybe possible, but that's a part of Subnautica's much bigger story. 

I tried to find anything in my PDA which might suggest a radio modification to allow me to send rather than just receiving messages, but no dice. I ended up just standing there helplessly. The only thing left in my power was to pay the Sunbeam’s crew the courtesy of witnessing their demise. 

Breathing room 

It's rare that a game let alone a survival game has such confidence in its story that it doesn't force you to pay attention to one of its most dramatic moments.

Steven: Talking to Pip and Andy about this moment, we were all shocked to find that each of us had a very different take on what happened. I thought I had turned the gun on and murdered everyone, Andy had to endure the horrific confusion of seeing it all unfold without knowing why, and Pip had to suffer with the knowledge of what was going to happen but no way of averting the disaster.

Andy: I’m surprised by how good the storytelling in Subnautica is, and how much freedom you’re given to experience it. I love that we all have different stories about a moment they could’ve easily just made a passive cutscene, but instead Subnautica gives you full control of your character during the entirety of those events. You don’t even have to be there to witness the ship being shot down. I did not expect a survival game to tell a compelling story, but here we are. The Sunbeam moment weirdly reminds me of The Shining, when (spoiler alert) Hallorann arrives at the Overlook after a long, treacherous journey to rescue Wendy and Danny, and is almost immediately killed by an axe-wielding Jack. A real gut punch.

Steven: Exactly. The whole setup for this moment is brilliant because the countdown timer builds so much anticipation that players respond to in different ways. Some might go immediately, similar to Pip, to scope the rendezvous point out. I wish I had done that because it might've given me a chance to read some of the alien data logs and understand what the facility was ahead of time. I had rushed through exploring it, so I was fully under the impression that I had destroyed the Sunbeam by mucking around with the alien computer inside the tower. It was all just a huge coincidence that I pushed that button the moment the tower came to life.

It's rare that a game—let alone a survival game—has such confidence in its story that it doesn't force you to pay attention to one of its most dramatic moments. Letting you move freely during the Sunbeam rescue attempt is brilliant because it lets you be an actor in the scene and, if you're like me, draw some terrible (and misinformed) conclusions.

Subnautica - (Brendan Caldwell)

*singing* Wouldn't it be ice if this was frosty / then we wouldn't have to live so looong

Underwater survival game Subnautica has a feature I neglected to mention in my review time capsules! These titanium pods are player-made containers. They can hold a message, a screenshot and a few small items. At a certain point in the game you get to make one of these capsules. It s then put through a voting process, vetted by the developers and – if it’s good enough – finally plopped into the ocean for other divers to find. Some of these gifts have been useful, others sentimental. One is even an easter egg from the game s technical artist. Here’s the best ones we found when we went trawling (through Reddit). (more…)


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